This article discusses research into sex differences in language learning, focussing on a field of study that has repeatedly been investigated with respect to possible sex differences: language learning achievement. What is most striking about the results of the investigations discussed in the first part of the article, however, is their inconsistency. Although there are widespread beliefs about female superiority, research does not support such popular notions of clear-cut sex differences in language learning achievement. The following sections discuss potential reasons as to why it appears to be impossible to study sex as a variable that effects language learning. Drawing on recent publications in the field of Gender Studies, it is argued that gender should be conceptualised as a cultural construct instead. The article concludes that assuming language learning to be essentially a feminine domain appears to result chiefly from cultural constructions (feminisations) of language learning rather than from empirical second language research.
Foreign language teaching in Australian educational system has witnessed significant changes over the past three decades. Due to closer economic ties to Asia there has been a tremendous increase in the teaching of Asian languages, Japanese in particular, while the traditionally taught European languages have lost some of their attractiveness.
This contribution investigates from an educationally political perspective how historic, economic, and political forces contributed to such a development. Special emphasis is placed on the changes that occurred in language policy and planning by presenting and discussing individual government reports and the actual measures taken. Finally, statistics are provided that highlight the quantitative relation of Asian and European language programmes in primary, secondary, and tertiary education.
In the context of pedagogical reforms and their impact on the theory and practice of foreign language education in Germany during the late 1920s, this article discusses two influences: “die Kunsterziehungsbewegung” and “Arbeitsschulbewegung”. The discussion covers the socio-cultural and pedagogical background, the curricular reform for grammar school in Prussia and Germany (1924) and, in particular, publications about foreign language education which recommend pictorial art and learner activation, as well as teaching material (a collection of paintings, etc. and a textbook). The curricular reform strongly demanded the application of pictorial art and special methods to activate the mental faculties of the learners ( “Arbeitsschulprinzip”), but placed those innovations under the dominant principle of “Kulturkunde” and “Wesenskunde”. “Kulturkunde” in teaching was meant to inform the learners about the national essence – mirrored in the target languages and their cultural manifestations – but in the end, national essence was interpreted in terms of the similarities and even identities with Germanic culture. If the pedagogical reforms were not – in themselves – ambivalent, i.e. more or less positive and negative, in their educational influences, they finally turned out to be negatively effective in their ambivalence under that nationalistic and ethnocentric guiding principle.
The analyses of the publications draw rather a differentiated picture of how the reform was received up until 1933. There are some authors who critically and successfully rejected educational ambivalence whereas others eagerly accepted it, in particular in connection with literary education. The “Arbeitsschulbewegung”, which concentrated on methodological improvement, proved to be less prone to national chauvinism, so that it became influential again soon after 1945.